In high school, for one brief day, I fancied myself a pastry chef. There was no reason for me to believe this bold statement; this was four years before I discovered a passion for baking (and six years before I baked professionally). Even so, as a friend and I were sitting bored on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, I imagined inventing new recipes couldn't be that hard. Up until this point, my only experience with baking was with box mixes, but I didn't let this simple, though glaring, fact deter me.
Not when I was craving strawberry pie, anyway.
My friend and I set out to engineer our own strawberry pie from scratch. For the crust, we pulled out butter, flour, and sugar, wildly throwing amounts into a mixing bowl without regard to measurements (or consulting a real recipe). The dough was greasy and sticky but, with a little elbow grease and a lot of flour, we managed to roll it out into two round circles. It wasn't perfect, but it gave us the confidence we needed to move on to the next step. See? I told you this wouldn't be hard, I remarked to my friend.
We grabbed a package of frozen strawberries for the filling. I wondered how I could elevate the simple pie. Chocolate, I thought wistfully. Chocolate covered strawberries were delicious, so shouldn't they be delicious in a pie? I relayed this to my friend and she agreed. Though unusual, we had high hopes for our little pie. We filled the bottom crust with filling, but, as the juice from the thawing strawberries pooled in the bottom of the pie pan, we thought it may need something more. Would marshmallows soak up the juice? Maybe. We threw a few in for good measure and sealed the top crust with the remaining dough.
As it baked in the oven, the house began to swirl with wonderful scents of butter and strawberries affirming our sincere, but completely wrong belief that baking could be done without recipes or any honest knowledge of how ingredients interact to create sinful treats. The first warning sign came when the top crust held the unusual shape of the marshmallows that jutted out from beneath, leaving us to wonder if the marshmallows simply weren't melting. The second warning sign came when the top crust was completely browned only twenty minutes into the oven. Did pies bake in only twenty minutes?, we wondered. Maybe. We pulled the pie from the oven, let it cool for an agonizing length of time, and finally cut into our masterpiece.
The pie immediately sunk. Once the first piece was removed, the strawberry juice began to pool in the bottom of the pan. Our marshmallow trick hadn't worked, it seemed. We hesitantly took our first bites. Though the top crust was overdone, the bottom crust hadn't even begun to bake, leaving raw dough to form the base of the pie. The strawberries were good, but the chocolate flavor wasn't right and the hint of marshmallows was really too much. My friend managed two bites before tossing it out; I managed three.
It seems we weren't quite the pastry chefs we imagined. Despite this obvious setback, I have gotten much better at baking and inventing recipes since then, thank goodness. This French Silk Pie is a little dream, completely worth the effort of putting it together and waiting for it to emerge from the refrigerator in it's subtle, but charming glory.
French Silk Pie is a classic for good reason. A flaky pie crust is filled with a seemingly impossible smooth chocolate mousse and chilled until the mousse sets and the flavors develop. The chocolate mousse is just rich enough for this pie to taste sinful and chilled enough to make for a fitting summer dessert. Topped with whipped cream and chocolate curls, this is a pie to share with the boys (and girls) in your life.
Note: This pie does contain raw eggs. If this is a problem, use pasteurized eggs or try a different recipe for this pie.
French Silk Pie
Yields 1 9-inch pie
1 recipe for 9-inch pie crust dough (such as this recipe)
3/4 (1 1/2 sticks or 170 grams) cup butter, room temperature
1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
3 large eggs, room temperature
Whipped cream, topping
Chocolate curls, garnish
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie crust dough into a 14-inch round. Wrap dough lightly around rolling pin and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan. Gently press dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to allow a 1-inch overhang. Pinch dough between thumb and forefinger to make an edge around the rim. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C).
Using a fork, prick a couple dozen holes into the bottom of the crust to prevent the dough from rising. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before filling.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together the room temperature butter and sugar until smooth and light in color, about 5-6 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for 5 minutes between additions to add height to the chocolate filling.
Spread the chocolate filling into the cooled pie crust and chill for at least 2-3 hours before serving to set the filling and develop the flavor.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate curls.